Mark Roebuck and The Subterraneans

Mark Roebuck

Mark Roebuck “The World and All Within”

Mark Roebuck has a pretty impressive history in power pop, even if he isn’t quiet a household name. Mark’s 1980’s power pop band, the Deal; was at one time signed to Bearsville/Warner Brothers Records, and eventually carried by Not Lame Records where his anthology “Goodbye September,” was a top seller. After several collaborations with several bands, and partners (including Dave Matthews) he took some time off.

Now reunited with former Deal drummer Michael Clarke, he delivers a powerful CD of harmonic, driving rock. Mark’s style vocally is very similar to Cat Stevens, and I’m sure you’ll hear similarities in the ballads. “After Day After” is a Badfingerish tune with a great ear worm chorus that really sticks, while “Billboard Blue” boasts a solid guitar riff and is like a mix of Bob Mould and The Byrds. More standouts include “God Is A Gun” and “Gratitude.” The slow “King William County Is The Place” is an earnest ballad, that uses a fuzz guitar riff in the chorus that transforms seamlessly to a rocker. Highly Recommended.

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The Subterraneans

The Subterraneans “Lost”

Another late 90s band is back; The Subterraneans led by Guitarist Rik Mercaldi & Drummer Mike Roze. The Subterraneans play rock with a variety of influences from British Mod, Indie to 70’s CBGBs punk. The bands sound is somewhere in the territory of The Black Crows. This album marks the first new music after a 9 year hiatus for the band. “What’s On Your Mind” showcases muscular riffs with a Lou Reed styled lyric and Mercaldi’s impressive guitar chops during the solo. “No Way Out” and “Lost” are pretty standard power chord rockers, but “Seasons” is a standout here as Mercaldi’s vocals have a confident snarl, with the organ riff humming – it begins to sound like a lost Doors tune.

“Sliding” takes the album in a new direction, with a slow acoustic track that includes a mandolin rhythm (very much in a Lindsey Buckingham mode.) “Prima Donna” is a true power pop song featuring a lean guitar hook, handclaps and its my favorite track here. The band jumps around stylistically after this but overall its a welcome return worth checking out.

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EP reviews: Cartoon Spirits, The Kickstand Band and The James Rocket

Cartoon Spirits

Cartoon Spirits “Crustacean EP”

Cartoon Spirits are determined to bring power pop back to where it belongs: the Pacific Northwest. Gray skies and drizzle can only be battled with hooks, fuzzy guitars, and raspy harmonies. The Portland band has just released its debut recording, Crustacean EP.  Its hard to argue their point, as “Remake The Stalls” is a catchy bit of modern pop magic, with solid guitar riffs and a timely opening falsetto. The trio of Michael Faherty (guitar), Loredana Corallo (bass) and Jeff Davis(drums) are a tight unit on the follow up “Common Law,” with fine job shredding to the layered vocal harmonies. “Back to The Cult” is another catchy tune that reminded me of Squeeze a little. Overall this is a great great debut. Highly Recommended!

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Kickstand Band

The Kickstand Band “Cut’Em Loose” EP

Another modern power pop band with a great sound, The Kickstand Band is from Detroit, Michigan with a good back catalog of excellent music that deserves to be heard. “How It Feels” has a confident fuzz rhythm and layered guitar melodies.The leads, Gordon Smith and Allison Young give us some great harmonies on “Next To Me.” Young goes solo on “Regret You” and her sweetness shines through on the chorus. This “yet-to-be-discovered” band is making its music available at a “name-your-price” point, so take advantage of the musical goodness!


The James Rocket

The James Rocket “We Are Here For You b/w Derby Girl”

The James Rocket are a 5 piece from Brooklyn, NY delivering a sweet quick single sure to please, “We Are Here For You.” Lead singer James William Roy is reminiscent of They Might Be Giants with a little more alt. rock fuzz. And check out the bands 2012 debut, the first track “Paper Valentines” is free. Love the spunky guitar buzz melody! Highly recommended!

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Talkie and Tokyo Police Club

Hablas

Talkie “Hablas”

San Francisco-based rock band, Talkie makes it their case on debut LP Hablas. The band has a very catchy formula for the opening song “Mountain;” just start with Beatles “Dear Prudence,” then add equal amounts of Beck, Beach Boys, and a dash of the Stones. The easy going strum of “Sunny” is another ear-worm that has a very 1970s California feel. The brothers Brad and Matt Hagmann can certainly sing those rich harmonies on this 16 track album.

The theme throughout the album is heartbreak and self worth, on “Ricky” its about leaving the comfort zone of High School and going off to college; “I can hear it in your voice, you’re scared” the lead vocal sings. Even gaining a little self confidence is tough on “Kronenberg” and “Queen of Espana” with its light bass and drum rhythms. The album coasts on several light experimental folk pop songs till we get to the fuzz guitar gem “Rollercoaster.” Another standout is the slow grower “Get By” that builds to a satisfying cacophony. If you let this one grow on you, you’ll definitely find some sweet tracks.

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Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club “Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Part 1)” EP

Canadian based Tokyo Police Club have long been a bright shiny example of radio-ready mainstream power pop, with a series of catchy guitar anthems reliably embedded into each album. The band is getting cheeky with its too-hip title “Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Part 1)” an obvious dig on the Smashing Pumpkins. And like most TPC albums we have a winning dancable rock tune opening things up with “Not My Girl,” next the passable “PCH” is a descriptive song that leans a little more on the synths and drums than guitars.
Read the full review at Blogcritics.org

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Edward Rogers and Gleeson

Edward Rogers

Edward Rogers “Glass Marbles”
UK-born, NYC-based singer-songwriter, Edward Rogers is like the Dylan-esque elder statesman of rock on his sixth solo album.  Fans of Ray Davies, Graham Parker, The Zombies and Lou Reed will appreciate his approach. Rogers is joined by an all-star cast: James Mastro (Bongos), Sal Maida (Milk N’ Cookies), Dennis Diken (The Smithereens), John Ford (Strawbs), Pete Kennedy (The Kennedys), Dave Schramm (Schramms), Konrad Meissner (Silos), and returning producer Don Piper.

The 19 tracks are a bit overwhelming at once, but I found several gems here. Starting with the upbeat “The World Of Mystery” its a classic rock poem delivered with conviction. “The Letter” has smooth psychedelic bluesy riffs that sinks in, “Bright Star” has a little Bowie baked into its DNA, and both “Broken Wishes on Display,” and “I’m Your Everyday Man” recall the early Kinks classics about the working class. Another amazing instrumental performance in “Burn N Play” is buried in here too. But my favorite is the Byrdsian jangle of “Looking for Stone Angles” and its wonderful guitar rhythms. I did find many of the folk songs sprinkled throughout the album very depressing (i.e. “The End Moments.”)  It takes a little work to get at the good songs, so please be patient with this well crafted album.

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Gleeson

Gleeson “Curse My Lucky Stars”
When Gleeson II released in 2013 I was really impressed with the band’s melodic skill and versatility. Ty Chandler and his crew have grown larger, with major roles for Phillip McEachern (vocals, keyboards) and new vocalist Elyse Estrada. It starts with a very slow fade in on “Lazy Bones” leading to the sweeping piano melody, thick choral harmonies, and violins. “What’s Going On” is a quick sing-along piano tune, and “Troll Day” is a catchy rock gem that compares well with Gleeson’s best. The Lennonesque “Lollygagged” is a bittersweet piano gem and “With My Motive Gone” is very much like the Minus Five with a strong chorus, and buzzing guitar ending.

The albums mid point shifts 180 degrees to literally “Something New” featuring Estrada’s lovely voice against strings. Then after an instrumental marching band song(?) it churns out one heavy grunge song and a few wimpy ballads. “The Size of Empty” is a bright spot here with a strong duet between the leads and a terrific guitar crescendo. The shifts in tone (and style) will be too much for some, but I recommend this album for the excellent first half. Also, Estrada needs her own album to highlight that angelic voice.

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Jangle Band and Martin Gordon

Jangle Band

The Jangle Band “Edge of A Dream”

In the triumvirate of power pop influences (Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys) not enough love goes out to the pioneers of jangle-pop The Byrds; and its creators Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. The musical style is so distinct, that few can master its 12 string Rickenbacker magic effectively (i.e. Jeremy Morris.) This is where The Jangle Band excels as they deliver shimmering melodies and raga-infused jams. The band starts with the songs of Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman, both veterans of Perth Australia’s pop movement. They are joined by power pop favorite Joe Algeri  (Jack & The Beanstalk, The Britannicas, The JAC) and his mates Mark ‘Sid’ Eaton and Dave Wallace.

Opening with “282” its more of Beatle-y beginning with a nice trumpet solo after the chorus. “Love You Too” has those familiar jangling chords and layered harmonies that can take you back to 1968. Algeri gets into the act with “Kill The Lovers” adding a great hook in a song about renewing a relationships spark. The Barker/Freeman songs have a tinge of sadness, especially “Perth” where the singer is frustrated that he’ll “never leave this town,” and feeling “out of time.” Another gem “Another Light” reassures the girl that he’ll remain faithful. Overall this entertaining set will appeal to jangle pop fans, others may want to pick and choose a few select tracks,  but without a doubt The Jangle Band lives up to its name.

Pretty Olivia Records

Martin Gordon

Martin Gordon “Gilbert Gordon & Sullivan”

Martin Gordon (Sparks) is likely the only person who could take the 138 year old musical opera H.M.S. Pinafore by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert and turn it into a rock n’ roll album, other than maybe Todd Rundgren. Gilbert imbued his play with mirth and silliness, and Gordon gamely runs with it. As the video for “Modern Major-General” shows, there is a Monty Pythonesque approach to the singing and Martin’s Rickenbacker is also up to the challenge.

With selections ranging from the well-known (‘‘When I Was a Lad”, “Lord High Executioner”) to the more obscure songs (“Go Away Madam”), Gordon delivers this labor of love in a way that makes it extremely fun to listen to, and dare I say it sing along to. So grab your libretto, sailors hat and a good set of headphones! It’s also available in a glossy limited edition package. The full album will be available May 2nd.

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Didn’t get those lyrics? Here’s a lyrical video.

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